Lawmakers pass bill requiring warning labels on pornography

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers have sent a bill to the governor that would require pornographic materials to have a warning label and creates fines for anyone who distributes pornography without a visible label. 

In 2016, Gov. Gary Herbert signed a concurrent resolution that declared pornography a public health hazard in Utah. In a public address after signing the resolution, he compared the effects of pornography to the effects of drugs and alchohol. 

“People generally know about the dangerous drugs and alcohol that can be found out there that tempt our youth, and the many ways it makes their lives more difficult,” Herbert said. “We also want our young people to know that their is a particularly psychological and physilogical detrement that comes from addiction to pornography too.”

Bill sponsor Rep. Brady Brammer, R-Highland, introduced HB243 before the House Judiciary Committee in early February. 

Brammer explained that those breaking the law have a choice. “They can pay a smaller fine of $500 and agree to future compliance,” Brammer said. “Alternatively they could deny or ignore the notice and then it could go to a court determination. Upon court determination, if it was found to not be pornographic, then there would be no fine or collection. If it were found to be pornographic, and it did not have the label, then there could be a civil fine.”

HB243, would allow for a civil penalty up to $2,500 for every violation. Half of the collected money for noncompliance would be given to the Utah Office for Victims of Crime. This money would be placed in a reparations fund. 

After passing through the House, the Senate amended the bill to adjust the text of the warning label and to protect against those who are possibly being blackmailed. 

The original text of the warning label would have higlighted the harmful effects of pornography including “low self-esteem, and the improper objectification of and sexual violence towards others.” The original text was also significantly longer than the new label.

The bill now includes the following text that would appear before any print or digital pornographic material:  “Exposing minors to obscene material may damage or negatively impact minors.” 

The bill heads next to Herbert’s desk. If he signs the bill, it will become law. 

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